Ashley Campbell is no stranger to the road, having played in a band with her dad Glen Campbell for years. Still, the Dot recording artist admits she wasn’t quite prepared for her first radio tour, which she is in the middle of right now.
“It’s been very fun,” she tells Billboard. “Maybe a little bit overwhelming, with all the travel. I don’t think I’ve ever traveled this intensely before — even with all the touring. The people from the label are all so nice and amazing at what they do. I’m having a good time. When I started the tour, everyone prepared me for much worse, but it’s been a great experience. Either I have a positive outlook on life, or it’s not as bad as they say,” she laughs.
Campbell is making the rounds to promote the release of her first single, “Remembering.” The song also appeared on the soundtrack of the Academy Award-nominated film Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me, which documented the singer on his final tour and captured his struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.
Ashley says she is touched by the impact the song has had. “It’s been great to see the reaction that my single has had on people when I play it live. It’s very rewarding to have people tell me they enjoy my song and it made them feel something in their own personal lives.”
“Remembering” was a song that took several rounds to write, she says. “I had been touring with my dad since I graduated college, and we started his goodbye tour in 2011. We finished at the end of 2012, and then I moved to Nashville. I wrote the song with my friend Kai Welch. I started the song when I was living in Malibu, but I just wasn’t able to finish it. If I’m feeling like a song is forced, I like to put it on the back burner. It just flowed out once I moved to Nashville and started working on the song with Kai. I made a demo of it, and we sent it to the filmmakers, and they loved it and put it in the movie.”
What does performing the song mean to her emotionally? “I feel a lot of different things when I play the song. It just depends. I like to think that it makes me feel like I’m giving my dad a hug.”
Campbell knows that people have their questions about the family’s struggle with her father’s illness, and though it might be tough to discuss some days, she says she wants to be as honest as she can. “With all the work I’ve been doing with Alzheimer’s as a result of the documentary, I’m trying to be as open with people as possible about how my dad’s doing without compromising his privacy or dignity. But I want them to know what it’s like to be dealing with it, so I try to be as honest as possible. I’m sure as it gets worse, when people ask how he’s doing, I’ll just say something like ‘not great,’ but I think that people need to know the reality of the disease,” she says candidly.
The family has taken on a role in the campaign to raise awareness about the disease, with Ashley playing a huge role in the process. “When we were filming the documentary and on tour, we came through D.C. a couple of times. I had the honor and privilege of testifying before Congress on behalf of Alzheimer’s, raising awareness and money. So I’ve done a lot of benefits and fundraisers for the Alzheimer’s Foundation and other groups associated with the disease. I fell into that role as spokesperson because my dad can’t be.”
For the record, Campbell says her father doesn’t pick up a guitar anymore but can be found singing to himself quite often. When asked about her memories of her father as a musician, she doesn’t miss a beat. “My earliest memories of being in awe of him as a musician was when he had a theater in Branson. I think I was in the first or second grade, and we lived there for a couple of months of the year. I remember that he would be doing two shows a day all week, and I always tried to make sure that I was there to see him do ‘Classical Gas’ and the Beach Boys medley. I wanted to see him play the instrumental part, because that was so exciting for me,” she says, adding that while it’s tough to pick one of his recordings as a favorite, she would go with a relatively obscure track. “I would have to say ‘Ocean in His Eyes,” she says of the track, which appeared on Reunion: The Songs of Jimmy Webb in 1974. “With most artists, I’m a big fan of the work that not many people know about. It’s just this really cool production, open tuning on a 12-string, and the lyrics are still amazing.”
The singer, who says she has cut about five songs for her debut album, says she is very excited to be working with Dot Records and Scott Borchetta. “It’s definitely clear from the moment that you meet Scott that he knows what he’s doing and that he’s passionate. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a record executive with as much passion who is as hands-on as Scott. He really cares about the artists and the music and has his hand on every single thing that he does. You just think, ‘OK, fearless leader. Lead me into the deep,'” she says with a smile.
The subject matter of “Remembering,” as well as the highly public fight the Campbell family has waged against Alzheimer’s, can be draining at times, but she says there is one positive side to it. “When someone comes up to me and says they’ve seen the documentary and thanks me for doing it, I felt like I was watching myself on the screen. Before that, nobody really knew what I was going through, but now everyone knows. But when you realize that has made someone else feel less alone, that really makes it all worthwhile — whatever we’ve been able to do.”